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Located one block from the Wyoming State Capitol Building and housed in the Barrett Building along with the Wyoming State Archives, the Wyoming State Museum contains an eclectic collection of art, artifacts (historic and prehistoric), descriptions, biographies, and displays that are relevant to the history and culture of The Equality State*.
The big boot
Licensed To Boot is a befittingly named sculpture that sits just outside of and to the right of the building’s main entrance. Paintings of old Wyoming state license plates decorate the boot’s shaft, while a mosaic of pieces cut from real Wyoming license tags adorn the boots toe. You may feel lead to believe that cowboy culture may be the dominant theme behind the doors. There is much to learn about cowboys at this museum, but there is much more to see and learn about than the over-sized boot sculpture suggests.
Like no place on earth
On the second floor of the Wyoming State Museum there hangs, among other memorabilia promoting the state, a large welcome sign. Pictured on it is the iconic Bucking Horse and Rider (a Wyoming registered trademark) set against the majestic Tetons of the Rocky Mountains. At the base of the sign is the caption, “Like No Place On Earth.”
Dressed to the nines
This was my second visit, so I toured the second floor first. You’ll find several unique displays here, but a temporary exhibit titled, “Dressed to the Nines,” is on display through March, 2013. The idiomatic expression, “dressed to the nines” may have its origins in the fact that tailors typically used nine yards of material to design one man’s suit. Another is that during the Middle Ages women often wore fashionable gloves as part of their evening wear. These gloves may have had nine buttons extending from the wrist to the elbow.
The ladies featured in the exhibit are all dressed for a night out or a special event. Whether it is Wyoming’s first lady or Wyoming’s Miss America contestant, the gowns and suits give us an idea of what fashion was like at the time.
Other displays on the second floor are “Firearms from the Collection,” made up mostly of firearms popular in Wyoming during the late 19th century; “Saddle Up,” a collection of saddles used by 19th and early 20th century working Wyoming horsemen; and “A Horse, Of Course,” a display of special horse-related artifacts from the museum’s archives demonstrating how the horse influenced the western experience. These are not all of the second-floor special exhibits; there are more, covering everything from archeology to telephones to education to name just a few. Take the time to see them all.
The rest of the story
Okay, so I know that I promised you more than just a cowboy museum, and that brings us back to the museum’s first floor. Here you can start with prehistoric Wyoming. In 1885 a Wyoming cowboy discovered one of the first triceratops skeletons in the eastern portion of the state. As a result, triceratops is Wyoming’s state dinosaur. Other displays cover Wyoming’s abundant natural resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, its history (many aspects of it), wildlife and native peoples. One of the many examples, “Here and Now: Wind River Artists,” is a collection of native art and artifacts that the museum acquired over the last several years.
Plan at least two hours to tour this museum. Wyoming’s citizens, and those who came before, have something to say and they have many achievements to parade. If you are from Wyoming or just visiting, you will return home with a better appreciation of what Wyoming is all about. Spend some quality time here and learn why Wyoming is “Like No Place On Earth.”
*Wyoming earned that nickname as a result of being the first state to grant women the right to vote. That act occurred in 1869, long before the U.S. Constitution was amended in 1920.